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Underworldby Don DeLillo
Synopses & Reviews
Our lives, our half century.
Nick Shay and Klara Sax knew each other once, intimately, and they meet again in the American desert. He is trying to outdistance the crucial events of his early life, haunted by the hard logic of loss and by the echo of a gunshot in a basement room. She is an artist who has made a blood struggle for independence.
Don DeLillo's mesmerizing novel opens with a legendary baseball game played in New York in 1951. The glorious outcome — the home run that wins the game is called the Shot Heard Round the World — shades into the grim news that the Soviet Union has just tested an atomic bomb.
The baseball itself, fought over and scuffed, generates the narrative that follows. It takes the reader deeply into the lives of Nick and Klara and into modern memory and the soul of American culture — from Bronx tenements to grand ballrooms to a B-52 bombing raid over Vietnam.
A generation's master spirits come and go. Lennny Bruce cracking desperate jokes, Mick Jagger with his devil strut, J. Edgar Hoover in a sexy leather mask. And flashing in the margins of ordinary life are the curiously connectecd materials of the culture. Condoms, bombs, Chevy Bel Airs and miracle sites on the Web.
Underworld is a story of men and women together and apart, seen in deep clear detail and in stadium-sized panoramas, shadowed throughout by the overarching conflict of the Cold War. It is a novel that accepts every challenge of these extraordinary times — Don DeLillo's greatest and most powerful work of fiction.
"Working at the top of his form, DeLillo draws on his previous novels in shaping his most ambitious work yet...a brainy, streetwise, and lyrical underground history of our times, full of menace and miracles, and humming with the bop and crackle of postmodern life....He kicks the rock of reality, teases out the connectedness of things, and leaves us in awe." Kirkus Reviews
"There are some marvelously drawn characters...and thought-provoking ideas....But somehow the various parts of the story seem more satisfying than the whole. DeLillo is one of our most gifted contemporary authors...yet one suspects that his truly 'great' novel is yet to come." Library Journal
"Utterly extraordinary....In its epic ambition and accomplishment, Underworld calls out for comparison with works...that have defined the consciousness of their age." Melvin Jules Bukiet, Chicago Tribune
"DeLillo always writes large, but here he has reached new dimensions....[A] stylistically magnificent, many-voiced, and soulful novel....Like novelists E. L. Doctorow and Thomas Pynchon, DeLillo uses historical figures to great effect, but DeLillo is a far more emotive and spiritual writer, and Underworld is a ravishingly beautiful symphony of a novel." Donna Seaman, Booklist
"Read and rejoice....Formidable characters, themes, language....Underworld delivers on every count." Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
"DeLillo offers us another history of ourselves, the unofficial underground moments....This book is an aria and a wolf whistle of our half-century." Michael Ondaatje
"Underworld is a magnificent book by an American master." Salman Rushdie
"Astonishing....DeLillo has raised literary standards to new highs here, and yet the book is a page-turner, a scene-stealer, a triumph of language that takes us everywhere we've never been." Gay Talese
"DeLillo's most affecting novel yet...a dazzling, phosphorescent work of art." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
In Underworld, Don DeLillo has written a gloriously fused history of the past 50 years that offers a key to understanding American culture — our preoccupations and obsessions, our fears, our loves, our lives — as well as a chance to reexperience it. Moving through this country's most diverse landscapes, DeLillo gradually reveals his two central protagonists, Nick Shay, now a "waste analyst," and Klara Sax, a renowned artist, who had a brief affair in the Bronx in 1952 when she was thirty-two and he, seventeen.
A finalist for the National Book Award, Don DeLillo’s most powerful and riveting novel—“a great American novel, a masterpiece, a thrilling page-turner” (San Francisco Chronicle)—Underworld is about the second half of the twentieth century in America and about two people, an artist and an executive, whose lives intertwine in New York in the fifties and again in the nineties. With cameo appearances by Lenny Bruce, J. Edgar Hoover, Bobby Thompson, Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason and Toots Shor, “this is DeLillo’s most affecting novel…a dazzling, phosphorescent work of art” (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times).
“DeLillo’s most affecting novel yet...A dazzling, phosphorescent work of art.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“The clearest vision yet of what it felt like to live through that day.” —Malcolm Jones, Newsweek
“A metaphysical ghost story about a woman alone…intimate, spare, exquisite.” —Adam Begley, The New York Times Book Review
“A brilliant new novel....Don DeLillo continues to think about the modern world in language and images as quizzically beautiful as any writer.” — San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
Don DeLillo is the author of eleven novels, including White Noise, Libra, and Mao II, and has won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
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